One of my favourite Mike stories, dating from before I met him, was frequently regaled in family conversations. I am sure that over almost thirty years, the story popped up at least once a year. More often after the kids were born. It made it onto the “Stories of Mike” CD Mike and Trisha recorded in the last weeks of his life while at the hospice in Geneva.
In brief it was about when Mike totaled his mum’s car when a new driver. He’d taken a curve too fast, in the dark. It was a bit skiddy, and he hit the road’s railing and bounced along it until the car came to a standstill. He must have been about 18 or 19 at the time. He managed to get home, albeit shaken.
His mum went ape-shit (in Mike’s words). I realise, being a parent myself, that that anger is all about fear and relief. She didn’t enquire about Mike, but just ranted about the car, her car, “My car!”. Again, fear talking – she could see Mike alive and well in front of her eyes, so transferred all her fear and relief onto the state of the car.
Mike’s dad, however, looked at him calmly, and asked,
“Are you okay?” (Yes)
“Was anyone hurt?” (No)
“Was any other car or person involved?” (No)
“Ok, I’ll make you a cup of tea. Go up to bed, get some rest. You’ll be shaken. We’ll talk about it in the morning. As for the car, it’s just a piece of metal”.Read more
Five years ago this week, I turned 30. My fiance had died just 3 months before, suddenly, and I was a field of shrapnel spread out for miles upon miles.
That week five years ago, I decided not to give up my 30th birthday. I decided instead to honor it, because I would only turn 30 one time and I still deserved honoring. With that, Drew’s mom and I hopped on a plane and headed West for the Grand Canyon. I decided if I was going to sit around and cry on my birthday, I was at least going to do it looking at something incredible that I’d never seen before.
It turned out to be the perfect and most sacred place I could imagine being that day. It was hard, no doubt, but it taught me something important. I made that choice not in spite of Drew’s death but because of it. I cast all practicality aside, and I followed my heart leading me to somewhere incredible. And there, on the edge of great canyon cliffs, watching the sun setting the sky on fire as it went down, I learned that I can use his death to lead my life better. I can harness that into experiences I would have never otherwise had. It was the beginning of learning to see purpose in things… perhaps a glimmer into lessons about love that I am starting to see in a deeper way now five years later...Read more
There were two really meaningful things about Thanksgiving for me this year. Firstly, I was at my sister’s house in upstate New York. For the first time in our adult lives, we now live close enough to each other that we can do the holidays together. This is an enormous deal for me… one that makes me wish our mom was alive to be a part of it all. God, she would be so happy to see it all.
In a few weeks, Mike will be going on his first major backpacking trip since I have moved here. This is a big deal for me. Drew died while he was away on a trip. Mike is going to be alone in the woods, in potentially dangerous cold temperatures, with zero cell service, for several days. One of the reasons that he hasn’t been on any solo backpacking trips since I moved here in fact is because of his fear of triggering me. Of knowing what it will mean for me in that moment when he leaves for the trip and we are saying our goodbyes. It may just be a few days, not a few weeks, as Drew’s trip was supposed to be… but there is no way that the thoughts will not still cross my mind: What if you don’t come back.
I had those thoughts when Drew left too. His job was dangerous, and we always knew there was a chance he wouldn’t come home, or that the next time he stepped into a helicopter could be his last. But back then, I didn’t REALLY think about it. Because I hadn’t lived through it. Back then, it was more of a vague fear that didn’t really have a huge amount of weight to it. I believed he was coming back. I had faith. Until two weeks into his trip when that faith was destroyed. When his body was delivered back to us from the crash in Washington state, without his beautiful soul inside it. I cannot erase any of that. I cannot unknow what I now know, which is that death is always possible. Every single day.Read more
I have always loved Halloween. Drew and I both did. We were always sure to find the biggest and best haunted houses to go to each year. We spent weeks on our costumes, making everything by hand. We’d go out to parties in character and win costume contests, and enjoy the whole experience of it all. Since his death, each year, I think I have come to love and appreciate this holiday even more deeply.
The very first Halloween came just 4 months after his death. I was a wreck. Still in shock. Could barely function at all. And though there was no costume-making that year, I was determined not to miss one thing: haunted houses. So I planned to go with a girlfriend of mine, to a new one, near the town I had moved to after he died. Doing this somewhere new was extremely helpful. I don’t think I could have gone back to one of the haunted houses he and I had visited. So changing this up was crucial to carrying the tradition on.
When my friend and I entered through that dark and unknown first door… something really incredible happened. For the 20 minutes or so we were inside, I was not a widow. I was just a person running scared and laughing through a haunted house. That’s right, laughing! With my good friend by my side, and scares at every turn, I found myself laughing deep and full. I found myself feeling… alive. As we came bolting out the exit, we were both so full of electric energy, that euphoric adrenaline that all the sights and sounds and crazy lights and monsters gives you.